China's SAIC to roll out hybrid cars this year

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - SAIC Motor 600104.SS, China's largest automaker, plans to roll out its first self-developed hybrid car this year, followed by a plug-in hybrid car in 2012, a senior executive said on Thursday.

SAIC, which operates a manufacturing venture with General Motors GM.UL and Volkswagen AG VOWG.DE, is joining BYD BYD Co 1211.HK among others in the race for green vehicles in the world's largest auto market.

The hybrid model is developed based on SAIC’s Roewe 750 saloon while the plug-in model, which SAIC is still working on, is based on its Roewe 550 platform, Shui Fang, director of the alternative vehicle powertrain department at SAIC Motor’s parent company, told Reuters.

Shui, speaking on the sidelines of an industry event in Shanghai, did not provide a price tag or sales target, but said the Shanghai-based automaker will also launch an electric compact car in 2011 or 2012.

Lithium-ion battery maker A123 Systems Inc AONE.O said in late 2009 that it was forming a joint venture with SAIC to sell battery systems for electric vehicles.

Shui said SAIC was also in talks with new potential partners to develop environmentally friendly vehicles, but did not elaborate.

Reporting by Fang Yan, Rujun Shen and Jacqueline Wong